Campaigners call for COP26 delay to make it safe

COP26

Scottish climate campaigners have backed an international call for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow to be postponed. 

A statement from the UK-based COP26 Coalition, which includes environmental groups in Scotland, argues the conference should be delayed until organisers can ensure that it is “genuinely safe and inclusive”. 

If the summit went ahead as planned it would “inevitably exclude many from the global south at a time when their voices need to be heard more than ever,” the coalition warned. 

The Climate Action Network, which brings together over 1,500 green groups from across the world, announced on 7 September that “time has run out” for the UK Government to host a “normal and inclusive” COP26 in November.

The network blamed Westminster’s failure to “provide access to vaccines to millions of people in poor countries” as well as “the rising costs of travel and accommodation” at the summit. 

In response the UK’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma, pointed out the conference had already been pushed back by a year and that “climate change has not taken time off”. He promised that ensuring that the “voices of those most affected by climate change” will be a priority at the summit.

The UK is due to host the flagship United Nations climate conference at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November. 

The event, which was previously due to be held in November 2020, was postponed by a year due to concerns it could not be held safely in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Around 200 heads of state and world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Pope Francis, as well as thousands of delegates are expected to descend on Glasgow for the duration of the two-week meeting. 

It is seen by some as the world’s last chance to agree a plan to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. 

The Ferret is investigating power and influence at COP26. We’ve revealed that 138 polluting companies took part in pre-COP26 meetings, and reported that the Scottish Government has discussed “choreography” at the summit with the oil and gas industry.

Access to vaccines for global south delegates looking to attend the conference has been a concern for campaigners.

It was reported on 17 August that the UK Government had not delivered a single shot of the vaccine to global delegates, journalists and observers in need of it before the conference. 

Westminster had previously promised it would fully vaccinate any COP26 participants who could not get the jab in their home country. 

Meanwhile, the price of accommodation in Glasgow during the conference has skyrocketed, with reports that some rooms could cost as much as £3,600 a night. 

Asad Rehman, director of War on Want and a member of the COP26 Coalition said that the issues threatened “the very legitimacy of the climate summit itself”. 

He said: “The UK presidency has failed to live up to its own promise of ‘the most inclusive COP ever’ as it continues to block access to life-saving Covid treatments, creating a vaccine apartheid between the richest and poorest.

“It has also failed to address the mounting concerns about the costs of travel and accommodation, leaving many doubting that they can safely be at the table as critical decisions are made.”

Head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland and COP26 coalition member, Mary Church, said that any delay “is no excuse for inaction on the climate”.

“Rich countries must commit to doing their fair share of climate action, cutting emissions to zero and paying their carbon debt to the global south,” she argued. 

“Yet the COP presidency is far from showing such leadership, instead poised to green-light a new North Sea oil field, and blocking access to vaccines in the global south.” 

We are working tirelessly with all our partners, including the Scottish Government and the UN, to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit.

Alok Sharma, COP26 president

COP26 president Alok Sharma said: “COP26 has already been postponed by one year, and we are all too aware climate change has not taken time off.

“We are working tirelessly with all our partners, including the Scottish Government and the UN, to ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit in Glasgow with a comprehensive set of Covid mitigation measures. 

“This includes an offer from the UK Government to fund the required quarantine hotel stays for registered delegates arriving from red list areas and to vaccinate accredited delegates who would be unable otherwise to get vaccinated.

“Ensuring that the voices of those most affected by climate change are heard is a priority for the COP26 presidency, and if we are to deliver for our planet, we need all countries and civil society to bring their ideas and ambition to Glasgow.”

Cover image thanks to iStock/Michael Kettner

1 comment
  1. Would it not be possible to organise this event away from a City ? Set up basic accommodation and a large tented village. They might not enjoy the lack of luxury but it would ensure safety for all.

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